Tomato-Fennel-Chickpea Soup

Makes 8 Quarts

I love black licorice and anise-flavored anything, so fennel is kind of my dream vegetable. As an alternative to pesto, crumble in blue cheese at the end, like the salty-creamy Bleu d’Auvergne. This soup falls squarely into the “. . . Or Maybe It’s a Sauce” category, and my kids prefer it over pasta. //Caroline


In a stockpot, heat the oil and sauté the carrots, onions, garlic and celery for 7 minutes, or until soft. Add the oregano, fennel seeds, and two thirds of the sliced fennel. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the fennel is soft.

// Add the tomatoes, rosemary, bay leaves, 2 quarts of the chickpea cooking liquid, wine–if using–and the salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 40 minutes, loosely covered. Remove the soup from the heat and fish out the rosemary sprigs and bay leaves. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.

// Add the remaining sliced fennel and the chickpeas. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the fennel is tender but still crisp. If the soup is too thick, add water as desired. Season with salt and pepper.

For Delivery

Include one quarter of the crème fraîche, pesto, and grilled cheese croutons.

To Serve

Reheat the soup and top each bowl with a dollop each of crème fraîche and pesto and a big pinch of red pepper flakes—the Italian tricolore in a bowl. Pass around the croutons for dotting on top.


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 head of garlic (about 10 cloves), chopped
  • 6 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds, crushed
  • 3 fennel bulbs, white parts finely sliced, fronds finely chopped and reserved
  • 5 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, with their juice
  • 2 whole sprigs rosemary, tied with kitchen twine
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 7 cups cooked chickpeas (from 1 lb dried), cooking liquid reserved (may be made up to 2 days in advance-if short, make up difference with water)
  • 1/2 cup red wine (optional)
  • 2 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups crème fraîche
  • Pesto (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes, for serving
  • Croutons (optional)


  1. Nahana

    This recipe is awesome!